In Harrick, UGA knew what it was getting


Published: Saturday, March 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 28, 2003 at 10:28 p.m.

Thursday was a red-letter day for those Florida fans who enjoy seeing their rivals get in trouble. First, Miami's baseball team was hit with probation and then ESPN nailed Georgia basketball coach Jim Harrick.

The evidence seems to be overwhelming that Georgia committed violations in its recruitment of Tony Cole. When Cole was in trouble last season, he told reporters that if he went down, the coaches were going down as well.

But rather than spill his guts to the newspapers, he waited until he could get ESPN on the phone so he could have his 15 minutes of fame.

Cole is a bad character. He attended at least five high schools and two community colleges before enrolling at Georgia, where he was arrested three times and is currently awaiting trial on a trespassing charge.

But if he is telling the truth - and there appears to be a paper trail - it doesn't lessen the seriousness of the violations. If nothing else, his accusations will start an NCAA investigation.

Harrick and Georgia president Michael Adams are getting what they deserve. Adams hired Harrick despite a checkered past that included falsifying expense reports at UCLA (for which he was fired) and questions about a car driven by Baron Davis there. Adams also waived the nepotism policy at UGA to allow Harrick to hire his son, Jim Harrick Jr., who supposedly paid for a Cole phone bill and two weeks at Athens hotels and also took correspondence courses for the player.

Harrick Sr. has made a reputation for taking risks on players at Georgia and it has come back to bite him. And it's not like he can distance himself from the assistant involved since it is his son.

This comes at a bad time for the Bulldogs, who play Kentucky on Sunday and Florida on Tuesday. It also should mean the end of Harrick's tenure at Georgia. If Adams and athletic director Vince Dooley are smart, they will cut their losses quickly. But if they were smart, they wouldn't have taken a chance on Harrick in the first place.

A sidenote: You wonder if Harrick is canned and Georgia is facing sanctions how it will affect Jarvis Hayes. He has already said he's coming back for his senior season, but this may change his mind.

  • RIGHT OR WRONG: Toni Smith is certainly getting more than 15 minutes of fame. The Manhattanville College basketball player's protest has become one of the biggest sports stories of the week.

    It is especially controversial because her school plays in what used to be the shadow of the World Trade Center's Twin Towers. After Sept. 11, you would have thought nobody would have the moxie to protest anything American.

    But she is by turning away from the flag during the national anthem, in part because she doesn't want a war with Iraq. If nothing else, it certainly has helped attendance at Manhattanville games as fired-up fans have shown up waving American flags.

    Very few of us want a war. Some think it's necessary, some wonder if we'd be as concerned about human rights if Baghdad was situated over a pocket of asbestos instead of oil. Some just don't want a war under any circumstances.

    I keep asking myself if I'd be disappointed if one of my daughters was turning her back on the American flag. I just know this - I would defend her right to do it.

    That's what makes this country what it is. We can state our opinions without fear of losing a finger or spending Christmas in a holding cell.

    I hear veterans say they didn't go to Korea or Germany or Vietnam to fight for what she is doing. Look, I respect anyone who fought for this country, but you can't pick and choose which parts of the Constitution you are fighting for.

    After all, freedom of speech is the first amendment. Our forefathers must have thought it was pretty important.

  • SHEET MUSIC: Speaking of protesting, it looks like the Ku Klux Klan will join the circus at Augusta this year. The KKK has applied for a permit to demonstrate in support of Augusta National Golf Club's right to an all-male membership.

    "We intend on making speeches and picketing for the right of the Augusta National Club to include only members of their choice regardless of race, religion, sex or creed," said J.J. Harper, the imperial wizard of the white sheets.

    I didn't realize the Klan was anti-women. I guess it's just pro-prejudice.

    More than anything, this is another blow to the image of the club. On one side, you have Martha Burk and Jesse Jackson. On the other side, you have Hootie Johnson and a guy who thinks Tiger Woods shouldn't be allowed to eat with the white folks.

  • FIELD DREAMS: Because of the possibility of war, NFL Europe is considering relocation in Florida for the upcoming season.

    The games would be played in two cities - most likely Tampa and Orlando - if war breaks out or appears imminent when the teams are scheduled to leave for Europe later this month.

    Gainesville might seem like a nice place to play football, but the field at The Swamp is about to be torn up.

    Soon after the April 12 spring game, the field at The Swamp will be scraped away and a new one, complete with new soil, will be put in its place.

    "It's something you have to do every seven or eight years," Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said.

    The current field has a pretty good record. It was installed in the spring of 1995. Since then, Florida won a national title and three SEC Championships.

  • FORCED TO BED: John Force, who is the most charismatic and successful driver on the NHRA circuit, is out of action right now after having surgery to remove his gall bladder.

    But you Force fans should not fret - he'll be back for the Gatornationals March 14-16. Force scheduled the surgery during one of two three-week breaks for the racers.

    "It's no big deal," he said. "It was just something that needed to be done. It wasn't going to fix itself."

  • SHOWING UP: It shouldn't be alarming that attendance at Florida basketball games is down at this point from last year (although it was a little surprising to see so many empty seats for the South Carolina game).

    For one thing, the Gators played all of their big-name non-conference opponents on the road. The year before, they had Florida State the night before the football game and Michigan State come to town. Attendance will certainly be up next year with Maryland, Miami and FSU making up some of the pre-conference home schedule and the following year with Louisville coming to town.

    Secondly, once you factor in the full O-Dome expected for the Kentucky game next Saturday, attendance for SEC games will actually be up from last year.

  • PAT-POURRI: The Washington Redskins are considering building a bubble over one of their fields at Redskin Park so the team could practice in inclement weather. ... Big 10 commissioner Jim Delaney, upset at media reports questioning the strength of his conference in basketball, sent out a letter touting the positive aspects of his hoops teams. ... Kentucky is not the only men's basketball team trying to go through a conference season undefeated this year. Weber State is 13-0 in the Big Sky and Penn is 9-0 in the Ivy. Those are also the two teams Florida beat in 1999 to advance to the Sweet 16. ... The SEC set an NCAA attendance record in football with an average of 73,315 fans per game. Seven of the top 11 schools in attendance were from the conference. ... Be safe.

    You can reach sports columnist Pat Dooley by e-mail at dooleyp@gvillesun.com or by calling 374-5053. You can hear Pat weekdays from 4-5 p.m. on WGGG 1230-AM in Gainesville and WMOP 900-AM in Ocala.

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